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The ''praefectus urbanus'', also called ''praefectus urbi'' or urban prefect in English, was
prefect Prefect (from the Latin ''praefectus'', substantive adjectival form of ''praeficere'': "put in front", meaning in charge) is a Magistrate, magisterial title of varying definition, but essentially refers to the leader of an administrative area. ...
of the city of Rome, and later also of
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

Constantinople
. The office originated under the
Roman kings The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two different meanings of magistrate have often overlapped and ...
, continued during the Republic and Empire, and held high importance in
late Antiquity Late antiquity is a used by historians to describe the time of transition from to the in and adjacent areas bordering the . The popularization of this periodization in English has generally been credited to historian , after the publication o ...
. The office survived the collapse of the
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican ...

Western Roman Empire
, and the last urban prefect of Rome, named Iohannes, is attested in 599. Lançon (2000), p. 45 In the East, in Constantinople, the office survived until the 13th century.


Regal period

According to Roman tradition, in 753 BC when
Romulus Romulus () was the legendary foundation of Rome, founder and King of Rome, first king of Ancient Rome, Rome. Various traditions attribute the establishment of many of Rome's oldest legal, political, religious, and social institutions to Romulus ...

Romulus
founded the city of
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
and instituted the
monarchy A monarchy is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a ...
, he also created the office of ''custos urbis'' (guardian of the city) to serve as the king's chief lieutenant. Appointed by the king to serve for life, the ''custos urbis'' served concurrently as the ''
Princeps Senatus The ''princeps senatus'' (plural ''principes senatus'') was the first member by precedence of the Roman Senate. Although officially out of the ''cursus honorum The ''cursus honorum'' (; , or more colloquially 'ladder of offices') was the sequ ...
''. As the second highest office of state, the ''custos urbis'' was the king's personal representative. In the absence of the king from the city, the ''custos urbis'' exercised all of his powers, which included the powers of convoking the
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...
, the
popular assemblies A popular assembly (or people's assembly) is a gathering called to address issues of importance to participants. Assemblies tend to be freely open to participation and operate by direct democracy Image:Landsgemeinde Glarus 2006.jpg, upright=1 ...
and the exercise of force in the event of an emergency. However, the
imperium In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A histori ...

imperium
he possessed was only valid within the walls of Rome. Under the kings, only three men held the position. The first king Romulus appointed Denter Romulius to serve as the first ''custos urbis'', the third king
Tullus Hostilius Tullus Hostilius (r. 673–642 BC) was the Roman mythology, legendary third king of Rome. He succeeded Numa Pompilius and was succeeded by Ancus Marcius. Unlike his predecessor, Tullus was known as a warlike king who according to the Roman Histor ...
appointed
Numa Marcius Numa Marcius, son of Marcus, was the first Pontifex Maximus of Ancient Rome. He was appointed by the King Numa Pompilius who assigned to him the entire system of religious rites, which system was written out for him and sealed and included the ma ...
, and the seventh king
Tarquinius Superbus Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (died 495 BC) was the legendary seventh and final king of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 BC that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. He is commonly known as Tarquin the Proud, fr ...
appointed Spurius Lucretius.


Republican period

After the expulsion of
Tarquinius Superbus Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (died 495 BC) was the legendary seventh and final king of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 BC that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. He is commonly known as Tarquin the Proud, fr ...
in 510 BC and the formation of the
Republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a month ...
in 509 BC, the office of ''custos urbis'' remained unaltered: having power only within the actual city of Rome and a life term appointed by the
consuls A consul is an official representative of the government of one Sovereign state, state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between th ...
. The ''custos urbis'' exercised within the city all the powers of the Consuls if they were absent from Rome. These powers included: convoking the Senate and ''
Comitia Curiata The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the ...

Comitia Curiata
'', and, in times of war, levying and commanding
legions
legions
. The first major change to the office occurred in 487 BC, when the office became an elective magistracy, elected by the ''Comitia Curiata''. The office was only open to former consuls. Around 450 BC, with the coming of the
Decemvirs The decemviri or decemvirs (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
, the office of the ''custos urbis'' was renamed the ''praefectus urbi'' (Prefect of the City of Rome), and was stripped of most of its powers and responsibilities, becoming a merely ceremonial post. Most of the office's powers and responsibilities had been transferred to the urban praetor (''
praetor urbanus Praetor ( , ), also spelled prætor or pretor in English, was a Title#Titles for heads of state, title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army (in the field or, less often ...
''). The ''praefectus urbi'' was appointed each year for the sole purpose of allowing the Consuls to celebrate the Latin Festival, which required them to leave Rome. The ''praefectus urbi'' no longer held the power to convoke the Senate, or the right of speaking in it, and was appointed by the Consuls instead of being elected.


Imperial period


Rome

When the first
Roman Emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
,
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
(reigned 27 BC – 14 AD), transformed the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
into the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
in 27 BC, he reformed the office of Prefect at the suggestion of his minister and friend
Maecenas Gaius Cilnius Maecenas ( – 8 BC) was a friend and political advisor to Octavian Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the fou ...
. Again elevated into a magistracy, Augustus granted the ''praefectus urbi'' all the powers needed to maintain order within the city. The office's powers also extended beyond Rome itself to the ports of
Ostia
Ostia
and the Portus Romanus, as well as a zone of one hundred
Roman mile The mile, sometimes the international mile or statute mile to distinguish it from other miles, is a British imperial unit and US customary unit United States customary units (U.S. customary units) are a system of measurements commonly u ...
s (c. 140 km) around the city. The Prefect's office was called the ''secretarium tellurense'' (secretariat of Tellus). The find-spots of inscriptions honouring Prefects suggest that it was located on the
Oppian Hill The Oppian Hill (Latin language, Latin, ''Oppius Mons''; it, Colle Oppio) is the southern spur of the Esquiline Hill, one of the Seven hills of Rome, Seven Hills of Rome, Italy. It is separated from the Cispius on the north by the valley of the ...
, near the
Baths of Trajan of the Baths of Trajan once housed one of the two libraries (Greek and Latin). file:Thermes_de_trajan_gismondi_3.jpg, A modern reconstruction of the complex. The Baths of Trajan ( it, Terme di Traiano) were a massive thermae, ''thermae'', a bathing ...
. Acting as a quasi-
mayor In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official An official is someone who holds an office (function or , regardless whether it carries an actual with it) in an or government and participates in the exercise of , (either their ow ...

mayor
of Rome, the Prefect was the superintendent of all guilds and corporations (''collegia''), held the responsibility (via the ''
praefectus annonaeThe ''praefectus annonae'' ("Prefect of the Provisions") was a Roman imperial official charged with the supervision of the grain supply to the city of Rome. Under the Roman Republic, republic, the job was usually done by an aedile. However, in emerg ...
'') of the city's provision with grain from overseas, the oversight of the officials responsible for the drainage of the
Tiber The Tiber (; la, Tiberis; it, Tevere ) is the third-longest river in Italy and the longest in Central Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (; grc-gre, links=no, Ἀπέννινα ὄρη or Ἀπ ...

Tiber
and the maintenance of the city's sewers and water supply system, as well as its monuments. The provisioning of the city's large population with the grain dole was especially important; when the Prefect failed to secure adequate supplies, riots often broke out. To enable the Prefect to exercise his authority, the ''
cohortes urbanae The ''cohortes urbanae'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of ...
'', Rome's
police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted body of Law enforcement officer, persons empowered by a State (polity), state, with the aim to law enforcement, enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health and possessions of citize ...

police
force, and the nightwatchmen (''
vigiles The ''Vigiles'' or more properly the ''Vigiles Urbani'' ("watchmen of the City A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social ...
'') under their prefect (''
praefectus vigilum The ''Vigiles'' or more properly the ''Vigiles Urbani'' ("watchmen of the Rome, City") or ''Cohortes Vigilum'' ("Cohort (military unit), cohorts of the watchmen") were the firefighters and police of Ancient Rome. History The ''Triumviri Nocturni ...
''), were placed under his command.Lançon (2000), p. 46 The Prefect also had the duty of publishing the laws promulgated by the Emperor, and as such acquired a legal jurisdiction. This extended to legal cases between slaves and their masters, patrons and their
freedmen A freedman or freedwoman is a formerly enslaved person who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, enslaved people were freed by manumission (granted freedom by their captor-owners), abolitionism, emancipation (gr ...
, and over sons who had violated the ''
pietas ''Pietas'' (), translated variously as "duty", "religiosity" or "religious behavior", "loyalty", "devotion", or "filial piety In Confucian ethics, Confucian, Chinese Buddhist ethics, Buddhist and Taoism, Taoist ethics, filial piety (, ''xi ...

pietas
'' towards their parents. Gradually, the judicial powers of the Prefect expanded, as the Prefect's office began to re-assume its old powers from the ''praetor urbanus''. Eventually there was no appeal from the Prefect's sentencing, except to that of the
Roman Emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
, unlike the sentencing of other officials. Even the
governors A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for the governance of a State (p ...
of the
Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. Each province was ruled ...
s were subject to the Prefect's jurisdiction. The Prefect also possessed judicial powers over criminal matters. Originally these powers were exercised in conjunction with those of the
quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest ...
s, but by the 3rd century, they were exercised alone. In
late Antiquity Late antiquity is a used by historians to describe the time of transition from to the in and adjacent areas bordering the . The popularization of this periodization in English has generally been credited to historian , after the publication o ...
, the office gained in effective power, as the imperial court was removed from the city, meaning that the prefects were no longer under the emperor's direct supervision. The office was usually held by leading members of Italy's senatorial aristocracy, who remained largely
pagan Paganism (from classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, includ ...
even after Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity. Over the following thirty years, Christian holders were few.Kazhdan (1991), p. 2144 In such a capacity,
Quintus Aurelius Symmachus Quintus Aurelius Symmachus "Eusebius" ( ; c. 345 – 402) was a Roman statesman, orator, and man of letters An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. Th ...
played a prominent role in the controversy over the
Altar of Victory The Altar of Victory () was located in the Roman Senate House (the Curia) and bore a gold statue of the goddess Victory. The altar was established by Octavian Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor ...
in the late 4th century. The urban prefecture survived the fall of the
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican ...

Western Roman Empire
, and remained active under the
Ostrogothic Kingdom The Ostrogothic Kingdom, officially the Kingdom of Italy (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communi ...

Ostrogothic Kingdom
and well after the Byzantine reconquest. The last mention of the Roman urban prefect occurs as late as 879.


Constantinople

When the Emperor
Constantine the Great Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ...

Constantine the Great
(r. 306–337) named
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

Constantinople
the capital of the Roman Empire, he also established a
proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose wo ...

proconsul
to oversee the city.Heather & Moncur (2001), p. 45 In the late 350s,
Constantius II Flavius Julius Constantius ( grc-gre, Κωνστάντιος; 7 August 317 – 3 November 361), known as Constantius II, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). ...

Constantius II
(r. 337–361) expanded the city's
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...
and set it as equal to that of Rome. Correspondingly, on 11 September or 11 December 359, Constantinople was also granted an urban prefect, commonly called in English the Eparch from his Greek title (, ''ho eparchos tēs poleōs''). The prefect was one of the emperor's chief lieutenants: like his Roman counterpart, the Constantinopolitan prefect was a member of the highest senatorial class, the '' illustres'', and came immediately after the
praetorian prefect The praetorian prefect ( la, praefectus praetorio, el, ) was a high office in the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Repub ...
s in the imperial hierarchy. As such, the office possessed great prestige and extensive authority, and was one of the few high state offices which could not be occupied by a
eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot ...

eunuch
. The prefect was also the formal head of the Senate, presiding over its meetings. Hence, the prefect's nomination had to be formally ratified by the Senate, and unlike the other senior administrative positions of the state (
praetorian prefect The praetorian prefect ( la, praefectus praetorio, el, ) was a high office in the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Repub ...
s and diocesan vicars) with their military connotations, the office's ancient and purely civilian origins were emphasized by the prefect's wearing of the ''
toga The toga (, ), a distinctive garment of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest histori ...
'' as a ceremonial garb.Bury (1923)
Book I, Ch. 2, pp. 28–29
/ref> The prefect was solely responsible for the administration of the city of Constantinople and its immediate area. His tasks were manifold, ranging from the maintenance of order to the regulation and supervision of all guilds, corporations and public institutions. The city police, the (''taxiōtai''), came under the prefect's authority,Evans (1996), p. 43 and the city jail was located at the basement of his official residence, the ''
praetorium The Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, i ...

praetorium
'', located before the
Forum of Constantine Keystone that was probably a part of the forum, kept at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum The Forum of Constantine ( el, Φόρος Κωνσταντίνου) was built at the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinopolis , alternate_name ...
. As with the Prefect of Rome, the night watch came under a subordinate prefect, the (''nykteparchos'', "night prefect"). In the 530s, however, some authority for the policing and regulation of the city passed to two new offices, created by
Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation o ...
(r. 527–565). In 535 the '' praitōr'' of the ''demoi'' (; ''praetor plebis'' in Latin), who commanded 20 soldiers and 30 firemen, was put in charge of policing and firefighting, while in 539, the office of the '' quaesitor'' (κοιαισίτωρ) was established and tasked with limiting the uncontrolled immigration to the city from the provinces, with supervising public mores, and with persecuting sexual offenders and heretics. In the middle Byzantine period (7th–12th centuries), the prefect was regarded as the supreme judge in the capital, after the emperor himself.Kazhdan (1991), p. 705 His role in the economical life of the city was also of principal importance. The 10th-century '' Book of the Prefect'' stipulates the various rules for the various guilds that fell under the prefect's authority. The prefect was also responsible for the appointment of the teachers to the
University of Constantinople #REDIRECT University of Constantinople The Imperial University of Constantinople la, Constantinopolis , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse), Tsarigrad (Slavs, Slavic), Qusta ...
, and for the distribution of the grain dole to the city. According to the late 9th-century '' Klētorologion'', his two principal aides were the '' symponos'' and the '' logothetēs tou praitōriou''. In addition, there were the heads (, '' geitoniarchai'', the old ''curatores regionum'') and judges (''kritai'') of the city's districts (Latin ''regiones'', in Greek , ''regeōnai''), the '' parathalassitēs'' (παραθαλασσίτης), an official responsible for the capital's seashore and ports, as well as their tolls, and several inspectors (''epoptai''), the heads of the guilds (''exarchoi'') and the ''boullōtai'', whose function was to check and append the seal of the eparch on weights and scales as well as merchandise. The office continued until the early 13th century with its functions and authority relatively intact, and may possibly have survived into the
Latin Empire The Latin Empire, also referred to as the Latin Empire of Constantinople, was a feudal Crusader state The Crusader states were feudal polities created by the Latin Catholic leaders of the First Crusade through conquest and political ...

Latin Empire
following the capture of the city in the
Fourth Crusade The Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) was a Roman Catholic Church, Latin Christian armed expedition called by Pope Innocent III. The stated intent of the expedition was to recapture the Islam, Muslim-controlled city of Jerusalem, by first defeating th ...
in 1204, being equated in Latin with the ''castellanus'' of the city.Van Tricht (2011), pp. 114–115 After the reconquest of the city by the Byzantines, however, the office of the Eparch was replaced throughout the
Palaiologan period The Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Con ...
(1261–1453) by several ''kephalatikeuontes'' (sing. ''kephalatikeuōn'', κεφαλατικεύων, "headsman"), who each oversaw a district in the now much less populous capital.


References


Bibliography

*Tacitus ''Ann.'' 6.11 *Cassius Dio 59.13 *Dig. 1.12; 4.4.16; 5.1.12; 4.8.19 * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Praefectus Urbi Ancient Roman titles Heads of local government